What is integrated medicine?
Integrated medicine, or integrative medicine, is a personalised, doctor led, holistic approach to healthcare using the best of conventional medicine, complementary medicine and self-help techniques for the treatment and prevention of illness.
One of the scientific facets of integrated medicine is functional medicine which addresses the underlying causes of disease, using an analytical approach to measuring the metabolic functioning of organ and tissue function. It incorporates the latest in genetic science, systems biology and an understanding of how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the emergence and progression of disease. It is a science based, patient focused, system of medicine fit for the 21st century.
The integrated medicine approach engages both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. This enables patients to become proactive in the treatment and prevention of illness with support to make choices which are absolutely right for them.
The integrated medical practitioner provides access to a wide range of techniques to focus on healing the whole person, recognising the links between mind, body and spirit, thus supporting the body’s self-healing potential. It is a compassionate, empowering approach to healthcare in which the patient and practitioners work as a team to discover and then treat the causes and not just the symptoms of illness, considering all factors that influence health, wellness and disease, including: state of mind, nutrition, fitness, fulfilment, relationships, work and environment; respecting the wishes, beliefs, needs and values of the patient, so that the person is individually empowered in all aspects of their care and treatment and is offered the opportunity for positive change.
6 reasons why an integrated approach to medicine is needed in the UK
- The benefits of integrated medicine include improved treatment, quicker recovery, reduced trauma of treatment and increased quality of life.
- It reduces treatment costs and also healthcare costs in general by the prevention of illness. This is clearly needed with the financial crises being faced by the NHS.
- Advances in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) prove that mental state affects body tissues and immunity.
- There is a huge demand as a significant number of us choose to pay for therapies in addition to conventional medicine, including consulting a CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) practitioner. However in most cases patients are self-prescribing or are relying on a practitioner only trained in their particular discipline. The benefits would be far greater if patients were doctor led on integrated healthcare programs.
- In the United States, integrated healthcare is well supported with the establishment of many clinics, some hospitals having integrated healthcare personnel and universities having integrated medicine faculties. Medical insurance providers are beginning to recognise the integrated approach as it reduces costs.
- Doctors practicing integrated medicine enjoy a high level of job satisfaction from which patients benefit.
The current situation in the UK
Integrated medicine is generally not recognised by the medical establishment, politicians or providers of medical funding, either public or private, in the United Kingdom.
To a large extent it is confused with complementary and alternative medicine which is attacked by well published sceptics. As a result, it is practised by a handful of enlightened doctors who are largely self-taught. Hence its availability to patients is restricted to those who can access one of the few integrated doctors and have the financial means to fund their treatment.
For medical professionals, there are many barriers to entry, including the highly regulated environment of the NHS, attacks from sceptics and lack of training opportunities, especially within mainstream medical schools. It is time to reverse this trend and provide healthcare professionals with access to this new proactive health paradigm.